3 Practical Remote Working Tips for Adapting to the New Normal
“Remote work is on the rise” has been a fledgling rallying cry of a subsection of knowledge workers for the last few years. Now, suddenly, more industries than expected are being thrust into remote work without warning or practically any preparation (thanks a lot, COVID19).
At Trello, we’ve been operating remotely for over 6 years. We even wrote the (self-styled) Ultimate Guide on the topic. But here’s the problem: the type of remote work we espouse is the Gold Standard, not the reality of our pandemic world.
So here’s a few of our most popular remote tips, adapted for newly remote workers in less-than-ideal circumstances:
Expectation #1: Remote work should be done in a separate room, with a door.
If you did not previously optimize your home for working remotely, how could you possibly follow this rule now? Some people are sharing small apartments with spouses or roommates, or even children, all day for the first time.
Adaptation: Do still try to find a consistent spot from which to work, but do your best. Even if you’re pulling up to the corner of your dresser every morning, work out a space that you can bear sitting in for multiple hours on end. If you share your space, use visual cues for when you need others in your home to leave you be. For example, if a broom is propped up next to your desk, let that be a marker to others that you are not available to chat right now, whether you are on a call or not.
Expectation #2: Children should not be in your primary care while working.
In normal times, this is actually a very important consideration. Some people believe that working from home eliminates their need for childcare, which is completely untrue. But when it comes to childcare in the time of Coronavirus, well... You work with what you got, eh?
Adaptation: If you share childcare responsibilities with a co-parent, split the day up into chunks. Communicate to your team the new blocks of time when you will be working and available for meetings. And if you are a single parent or your spouse is an essential employee: first of all, you’re doing amazing. Second, be upfront with your team, because these are extraordinary circumstances and they will understand. Third, abandon all rules about screen time (that last one is not really a work tip, more just general advice).
Expectation #3: Remote employees should overlap certain hours of the workday, regardless of timezone.
Generally, even if remote workers are spread out across the world, there are often guidelines about a few hours a day when everyone needs to overlap (at Trello, it is 12-4pm EST). This might not be possible in your current situation, given you may be balancing childcare or your own health at this time.
Adaptation: Say hello to asynchronous communication. One of the trickiest parts of this adaptation is that you need to adjust your expectations about when you will receive an answer. With remote work, it’s common to not receive a response to your question right after you ask it, or even hours later.
Here are a few ways to break down different types of communication while on a remote team:
Is the question somewhat urgent?
If so, DM or @mention them in Slack. If not, @mention them on the project management software where you keep track of tasks, like Trello or Jira.
Is the question complex or sensitive in nature?
Without question, schedule a video call when it is convenient for both people. Long explanations are difficult to parse, and sensitive information can be misinterpreted in chat. Tone is lost in chat, but is easily solved on Zoom.
So listen: it’s not a perfectly productive world out there today. Remote work is an adjustment for even the most seasoned tech employee. Remember to give yourself grace and patience, and practice empathy with your teammates.
Also! After we enter back into the world, catch me at INBOUND 2020 where I’ll be sharing remote work best practices that you can put in place now that you’ve got this less-than-ideal remote trial run under your belt.